Autumn equinox: Golden Mornings, Sparkling Nights

Sep 21st, 2015 | By | Category: Articles

autumn leaves, Mabh SavageBy Mabh Savage

Autumn is my favourite season. Of the more spiritually inclined of my friends, it seems this is a common opinion. I paused to wonder on this. What is it that makes autumn such a magical time for so many people?

We light-heartedly mock the Americanism, ‘The Fall’, but if we think of spring as the time when things begin to rise out of the ground, then the fall is as good a name as any for spring’s antithesis; the dropping of flowers, the falling of leaves, and the preparation for the cold.

Now Nathan is back at school, he asks me every morning if it’s autumn yet. The answer was ‘yes’ as soon as he went back: early September greeted us with cool mists and burning trees, and pale, egg yolk sun reflecting off damp roads. But he checks with me every day anyway, in the manner small children have of wanting to be absolutely sure about something.

What does he like about autumn, I ask. He likes conkers and acorns; rolling in big piles of leaves! Halloween (Samhain for me but I don’t begrudge him this) and bonfires, picking blackberries and cosy days in watching films.

I agree with all of this, and add to his list: I like seeing the changes all around us, from green to gold to russet and finally to brown as winter descends. I like spying fungi in the grass, or hanging from the side of trees, like a sudden invasion of completely alien species. I like the first foraging trip where you realise you need a scarf, because of the sudden nip in the air. I like hot soup and cold cider and the start of gathering everything close.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. Most of this post was written (mentally) whilst puffing around the house making a wheezing sound reminiscent of an old steam train, courtesy of a nasty cold one or the other of the boys has brought back with them. Just like the opportunistic fungi, these viruses do seem to pop up as soon as the temperature drops and the humidity goes up. The other downside of this cold is that I have missed one of the last camps of the season, before the tents are cleaned and packed away for winter. I’m pretty gutted, as the autumn equinox camp is very special to me.

I was dedicated into my magical group around the autumn equinox at a similar camp. At the time I didn’t actually sleep over, as I had left my then baby son with his dad, and I needed to get back to him, but I’ll never forget the atmosphere and the amazing colour and vibrancy of that day.

The sun was just on the cusp of setting as we stood in the circle, casting a copper glow straight through black branches that were just beginning to bare themselves. Crows flew overhead, announcing themselves abruptly. Jackdaws joined in, with more numbers, and cheek. A light wind blew a cold promise of winter then suddenly stilled. It was a moment a pure transition; a liminal experience, for sure.

After the circle was unwound, we stood under a mostly dark sky, with just a touch of azure at the horizon. Stars were beginning to show themselves, and an owl called out for her mate to awaken. The air was incredibly clear and clean, as if someone had replaced it all while we had been working. Each breath was like a cool, refreshing draught of spring water, but for the lungs. It was cleansing in a way that has nothing to do with soap and water.

Autumn is all about change, transition and impending inevitability. We cannot stop or even pause winter’s approach, but we can certainly enjoy it, and ensure we are prepared for those first frosty days.

Whatever your path, get yourself outside before it gets too cold. Pick up a horse chestnut, feed birds, walk in the woods or simply sit on your doorstep and observe. And if you, like me a few years ago, have a big change to make in your life, you could do much worse than making that commitment as we approach the equinox; a liminal point of balance; autumn’s turning point.

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